High School Graduation Around The Corner, Be Vigilant
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Mom, is this the underage drinking talk again?” Michael rolled his eyes and exhaled dramatically to emphasize to his mother how stupid he thought all of this was.
It’s no secret that children under the age of 21 are drinking. It’s critical for parents to keep the lines of communication open when it comes to talking to their kids about the dangers of underage drinking and drunk driving. As a high-risk teen counselor I do a lot of speaking at school assemblies with hundreds of teens every year. When I ask students if they know someone who has driven drunk, almost every hand in the room comes up. And almost all of them know someone who has been affected negatively by that decision.
Graduation season is right around the corner. Statistics show that graduation season, the months of May and June, are the most dangerous time for teens. Did you know one-third of the alcohol-related traffic fatalities across the U.S. involving teens yearly occur during these months?
Some teenagers will be trying to obtain alcoholic beverages though a variety of methods including using fake or borrowed IDs, shoulder tapping someone in front of the liquor store and asking them to purchase liquor for them, and even stealing alcoholic beverages when they think no one is looking.
Peer pressure is always present and teens want to fit in. Alcohol is not only accessible to many; it also contributes to the party atmosphere at the end of the school year celebrations. Teens think that graduation from high school equates to adulthood. And they think this new found adulthood trumps the legal drinking age of 21. But it doesn’t.
Despite what we think as parents, study after study show children do listen to their parents when they talk about underage drinking. And not only do they listen, but teens actually identify you, their parents, as the number one influence on whether they drink alcohol or not.
What To Do?
Talk to them – it does make a difference. Start at an early age, and keep it up throughout their teen and young adult years.
Be it graduation party time and drinking, or drinking in general, it’s time to have the underage drinking talk again.
Emphasize the fact that drinking is illegal for teens and for very good reasons.
Let your teen know that not everyone their age is drinking. Teens often over estimate how many of their peers are drinking or have tried alcohol.
Talk about how drinking affects the brain. Teens need to know how drinking will affect them and that people who are drinking are not a good judge of how impaired they are.
Explain your own position concerning teen drinking. This means discussing family rules and consequences for breaking the rules.
Talk about what sometimes motivates teens to drink and alternatives for not drinking. Give them a reason to say no. Teach them communication skills that will make it easier to say no.
Some families use a “sober contract,” a promise that teens sign agreeing to remain alcohol and drug free.
There are so many things teens can’t change in their lives – who their parents are, the color of their skin, but teenagers can change their thinking about alcohol and the need to drink alcohol. And we can help them make these changes.
Graduation is around the corner, let’s be vigilant about teen drinking.
Cary Quashen is a certified addiction specialist, the president and founder of Action Parent & Teen Support Group Programs, The Action Family Zone, and Action Family Counseling Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs. He may be reached by calling (661) 297-8691.
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